The women’s basketball team has established
itself as a defensive juggernaut under coach Dawn Staley.
For the second consecutive season, opponents have struggled to score more than 60 points per game against the Owls. Temple ranks second in the Atlantic Ten Conference in scoring defense, allowing 58.3 points per game. The Owls led the A-10 last season, when they gave up only 55.2 points per contest.
Despite the statistical similarity between
those two teams, Staley said this year’s unit bares little resemblance to its predecessor on the defensive end.
“It’s not even close,” Staley said. “Last year’s squad couldn’t consistently defend. They just couldn’t. … I guess they had been around the block a long time and they knew when to push and pull. But this team really has to play this way because we have to create some offense from our defense.”
The defensive-minded Owls (22-5 overall)
had enough offense to beat Charlotte, 72-55, Sunday to improve their perfect conference record to 12-0. Sophomore Shenita Landry topped the Owls with 15 points. Kamesha Hairston, Lady Comfort and LaKeisha Eaddy each finished with 14.The Owls have won 18 of their last 19 games while holding 13 of their last 16 opponents
under 60 points.
“That’s our bread and butter,” senior Kamesha Hairston said about the team’s defense.
“That’s where it all starts for us and I think now we’re getting back to how we used to play a couple of years ago during my freshman and sophomore years.”
Hairston, a two-time member of the A-10 All Defensive Team, said this year’s squad is “more competitive” and “more athletic” on the defensive end.
“That helps a lot to be able to get out and [apply] pressure,” Hairston said. Hairston is atop the A-10 in rebounding, grabbing 8.8 boards per game. She leads the Owls in steals with 48. Freshman LaKeisha
Eaddy trails closely behind with 47.Jumping into the passing lanes and disrupting an opponent’s offensive scheme both factor into the Owls’ defensive strategy.
Quickness is also key, Staley said.
“Anytime you’re able to put some quickness out on floor, you always put yourself
in a position to discourage shots and make people take low-percentage shots,” Staley said.
“I think our coaching staff is doing a tremendous job preparing us for the strengths and weaknesses of our opponents. Our kids are really embracing that and they’re following through on the defensive end.”
Eaddy, one of the fastest players on the team, has brought a new dimension to the Owls’ defense this season, with her ability to shut down the opponent’s leading scorer.
“LaKeisha Eaddy is probably one of the most underrated defenders in our league,” Staley said. “I’m probably biased because I see her on a nightly basis. [She] steps up to the challenge [of guarding] juniors and seniors and doesn’t miss a beat.”
Western Michigan senior Carrie Moore, the top-ranked scorer in the nation, felt the effect of Eaddy’s defensive prowess. Moore was held to six points on 1-of-13 shooting in the Owls’ 78-35 win Dec. 19.
Eaddy helped limit La Salle junior Carlene
Hightower, the second-leading scorer in the A-10, to 12 points on 3-of-7 shooting as the Owls won, 68-55, last week.
“She’s just a really gifted defensive player,” Staley said of Eaddy. “She plays off her natural ability and that’s something you can’t teach.”
The Owls have taught opponents a lesson
on rebounding throughout the season.Temple has won the battle of the boards in 22 of 27 games. The Owls are ranked first in the A-10 and 15th the nation in rebounding
margin, grabbing 8.3 more boards per game than their opponents. Besides Hairston, the Owls’ group of glass-cleaners includes a frontcourt rotation of four players who stand 6-2 or higher.
Junior Lady Comfort is second on the team in rebounding, pulling down 6.5 boards per game. Her frontcourt partner, sophomore Shenita Landry, grabs 5.2 rebounds.
“I think basketball is more about defense
than offense,” Landry said, “And that’s what I focus on more.”Off the bench, freshman Jasmine Stone averages 6.1 rebounds, while junior Nicole Pittman chips in with 3.5 boards. Comfort leads the Owls in blocks with 25. Comfort, Landry, Stone and Hairston have blocked a combined 83 shots.
“Our defense is the foundation for everything else that we do,” Comfort said. “[When] we play defense, the offense will just come to us.”
Temple takes on Duquesne (7-18, 2-10 A-10) Friday at the A.J. Palumbo Center. The Owls then play their regular season finale against No. 9 George Washington Sunday at the Charles E. Smith Center. Last season, the Colonials (23-2, 12-0) beat Temple in overtime, 55-50, at the Liacouras
Center on senior day.
But the Owls came back and defeated the Colonials, 59-54, in the A-10 Championship game to win their third consecutive conference title.
Tyson McCloud can be reached at email@example.com.